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Cablegate: Wise Man's Council Says Don't Miss Golden

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJB #0253 1361504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151504Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0948
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS BUJUMBURA 000253

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/C

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL BY
SUBJECT: WISE MAN'S COUNCIL SAYS DON'T MISS GOLDEN
OPPORTUNITY FOR PEACE

REF: BUJUMBURA 246

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a May 9 meeting with Ambassador
Moller, executive members of the Bashingatahe, Burundi's
traditional wise men, advised that:
-- the Government of Burundi (GOB) is positioned to take
advantage of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL's (FNL) intent to return to
the negotiating table to conclude a final, lasting peace;
-- elections in 2010 will be successful if a peace agreement
is concluded with the FNL; and
-- a transparent election commission must be put in place to
assure free and fair 2010 elections.

This meeting is one in a series of discussions with political
leaders and influential groups addressing the tensions
exacerbated by the recent FNL armed attacks and the stalemate
in the National Assembly that has effectively blocked
legislative progress. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Representatives of the Bashingatahe insisted that
the impending return of the FNL to peace negotiations
presents a particularly advantageous opportunity for the GOB
to finalize a peace agreement. (reftel) Failure to do so at
this point could lead to continued violence up to and
including the 2010 elections. In order to successfully
negotiate with the FNL, the Bashingatahe representatives
recommended that President Nkurunziza become personally
involved in negotiations, and that the international
community vigorously support such efforts. Further, the
representatives stated the Burundian public needs to take
ownership of the problem with the FNL and encourage Burundi's
leaders to resolve the current dispute between the government
and the rebels. In order to fully involve Burundians in the
process, representatives suggested enlarging the purview and
membership of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism
(JVMM), the organization charged with negotiating the 2006
cease-fire agreement between the FNL and GOB, to include more
members from civil society.

3. (SBU) Bashingatahe representatives counseled that while
the 2010 election campaign is already underway, peace with
the FNL is essential to assuring that 2010 elections are free
and fair. In addition to concluding a peace agreement with
the rebels, the GOB must establish a transparent, neutral and
independent electoral commission that can responsibly ensure
a transparent electoral process. Voter education and
preparation is another important requirement for guaranteeing
a free and democratic election, as the principles of
democracy and political campaigning are new to many Burundian
citizens. The Bahsingatahe representatives suggested using
its network of 100,000 members to drive a voter education and
preparation campaign, as it is a neutral, bi-ethnic, and
bi-gender group that is especially well respected in rural
areas.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: While the Bashingatahe earnestly
advocated expanding the JVMM to include broader civil society
representation, Post judges such a move to be ill-advised.
The JVMM is a technical committee as opposed to the
aptly-named Political Directorate that deals with policy
direction and the "healing" aspect that interests the wise
men. Adding civil society representatives to this technical
committee would likely make it unwieldy and transfer focus
from the practical details that the JVMM manages.

5. (SBU) That said, Post fully endorses the Bashingatahe
statement that the international community must suggest
vigorous, early pre-election preparations to make free, fair
and transparent elections in 2010 more likely. Without such
preparations and democratic elections, Burundi's nascent
democracy could face a very uncertain future. END COMMENT.
MOLLER

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